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Tuesday, December 31, 2002



SPECIAL REPORT:  KILAUEA'S 20-YEAR ERUPTION
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KEN IGE / KIGE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist-in-charge Don Swanson shielded himself from the heat as he checked out a small breakout at Highcastle. The crust of rock under his feet was hard enough to hold him up, but it was still hot. A plastic buckle on Swanson's backpack melted.




Instant Access

Don Swanson’s powerful photos
turn Kilauea into a ‘click-on’ volcano

Let goddess Pele retake land, a kupuna says
Explosive eruptions at Kilauea


Stories by Rod Thompson
rthompson@starbulletin.com

HILO >> It's 4:45 a.m., and geologist Don Swanson is ready to start his morning fire walk.

Head of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, Swanson, 64, drives nearly every day of the year before sunrise from Hilo to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, then down Chain of Craters Road to the coastal lava flows.

From there he treks across flows that are often still glowing red hot through cracks underfoot. Within hours, the pre-dawn pictures he takes, plus a written daily update, are on the observatory Web site, hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/update/main. html.


SPECIAL REPORT:  KILAUEA'S 20-YEAR ERUPTION
KILAUEA'S 20-YEAR ERUPTION
SPECIAL REPORT

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Swanson has turned a "drive-in" volcano, so called because of Kilauea's relative safety, into a "click-on" volcano.

The public -- from schoolchildren to scientists, from Maui to Malaysia -- loves it. In October alone the site got 10.4 million "hits."

George Kessler, of Duluth, Minn., wrote: "I live in Northern Minnesota, so I have zero chance of ever personally experiencing anything remotely geological. Your site allows me to vicariously indulge my interest in volcanology without ever having to don a gas mask, grab a pick or melt my shoes!"

The main attraction for many is Swanson's photographs.

Ann Yamamoto, a teacher at Highlands Intermediate School in Pearl City, wrote that the photos were "so powerful, so dramatic and so beautiful" that her students decided to use several in the school's yearbook, including one on the cover.

"He has a very good eye," said Jim Griggs, staff photographer at the observatory from 1975 to 1992.

The site has a wide range of other information. For those worried about a Mauna Loa eruption, the site advises that mainland reports "greatly exaggerated" possible danger from the mountain.

For those not worried about Kilauea when they should be, the site has detailed diagrams explaining the danger to hikers of seaside "bench collapses."

"Great work!" wrote Mark Thompson, of Buford, Ga.


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KEN IGE / KIGE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua took a temperature reading at the upper section of the Mother's Day flow. Choking, sulfurous fumes required the use of a mask.




Let goddess Pele retake land
as she wishes, a kupuna says



HILO >> When lava destroyed homes on the South Puna coast, local residents referred again and again to the volcano goddess Pele.

Hawaiian speakers could hardly do otherwise. Pele, written with a small "p," is the Hawaiian word for a lava flow.

In her book "The Story of Kapa'ahu," kupuna Emma Kauhi says she was taught in childhood that there are two kinds of eruptions, "pele kama'aina," a native-born flow, one that occurs at Kilauea's summit, and "pele malihini," a newcomer eruption, described as "wandering lava, bursting out here and there," what geologists now call a rift eruption.

"Mom was a Christian, but she also believed that Pele was the fire goddess," Kauhi wrote.

"She told me, 'This is Pele's land; she made it. We live on it only temporarily, but Pele will be here forever. So if she comes to claim her land, let her have it.'"

"I asked her, 'What about the house?'"

"She answered, 'Let her have it.'"


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1986-91 | In the eruption's second phase,
lava from Kupaianaha wreaks havoc by destroying
172 structures in and around Kalapana

Explosive eruptions at Kilauea


These eruptions are thought to be caused when water comes into contact with magma and flashes into steam. This apparently happened in 1924 after the level of the lava lake in Halema'uma'u Crater dropped below the water table. The walls of the crater then collapsed and blocked the opening in which the lava had drained, allowing steam pressure to build up and causing violent explosions.

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By the numbers

40,000 to 45,000

The number of dump trucks worth of lava spewed out by Kilauea each day. Each dump truck has about a 10-cubic-yard capacity.

300 million

The number of dump trucks worth of lava pumped out since the eruption started. It's enough to cover Oahu under 5 feet of lava.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory



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U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
Walter's Kalapana Store and Drive Inn was burned and covered by lava in early June 1990 as flows moved relentlessly through the Kalapana area.




First wave:
Kapaahu and Kalapana Gardens

1986

>> July 18: Lava outbreak moves, creating Kupaianaha lava pond.

>> Nov. 26-Dec. 16: On the night before Thanksgiving, lava begins destroying 11 homes in Kapaahu.

>> Nov. 28: Lava enters ocean for first time since Mauna Ulu eruptions.

>> Dec. 17-19: Lava destroys 18 homes in and near Kalapana Gardens.

1987

>> March 31: Queen's Bath covered by lava.

>> June 13-16: Lava surrounds ruins of "Damien's Church."

1988

>> Jan. 2: Lava buries the church.

1989

>> June 22: Wahaula Visitor Center is destroyed.

>> Oct. 7: Sightseer Shuichi Horita stumbles over a cliff at night and dies.



Second wave:
Kalapana Gardens and Kalapana village

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U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY, HAWAIIAN VOLCANO OBSERVATORY
What's left of Walter's Kalapana Store as flows moved through the Kalapana area.




1990

>> April 4: Two homes destroyed in Kalapana Gardens, the start of seven months of destruction that wipes out most of Kalapana-Kaimu area.

>> May 4: Star of the Sea "Painted Church" is moved a half-mile.

>> May 18: President George Bush declares Kalapana a disaster area.

>> June 1: Lava destroys Mauna Kea Congregational Church.

>> June 6: Walter Yamaguchi's store destroyed.

>> Sept. 25-29: Kaimu Bay filled with lava.

>> Nov. 10: Last house destroyed in Kaimu area, No. 181 since 1983.



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